Veterans Roundup: Number of Troops in Iraq Ticks Up, the ‘God Shot’ “Cure” for PTSD, WASPs Closer to Arlington, Hagel Makes News at HillVets, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

The U.S. Military Has a lot More People in Iraq than It Has Been Saying
Missy Ryan (@missy_ryan), The Washington Post
The renewed war in Iraq and ensuing U.S. casualties are making headlines after a Marine staff sergeant was killed, the second combat casualty since the U.S. revived efforts overseas. Officials privately say the United States has approximately 5,000 troops serving in Iraq, a number much higher than the current cap of 3,870. The troops include Marines serving at a satellite base in northern Iraq and officials working on “military sales and other defense cooperation matters.” –MC
Bottom line: For us, when it comes to numbers of U.S. troops in combat, whether it’s increasing or decreasing, the most important issue is how well prepared are DoD and VA to ensure those troops and their families have a full spectrum of resources available to them. (Obligatory: and we shouldn’t forget the DoD and State civilians, as well as contractors, also deployed to Iraq and environs.) While the government has an inherent responsibility to these men and women, our community has an implicit responsibility to advocate for and hold the government accountable to provide the resources promised. To do that requires the support of the American people which sometimes means educating them about the continued sacrifices of our military and the needs of our veterans (or correcting politicians’ misstated facts about veterans and VA.) I would also argue that we have a responsibility to ensure that those making decisions to send troops into harm’s way present coherent strategies that demonstrate how our military’s deployment will effect a desired change in foreign policy. –LJ

Can A Single Injection Save Soldiers Suffering from PTSD?
Matt Farwell (@mattbfarwell), Playboy
As some veteran grapple with post-traumatic stress, many are turning to a variety of treatment techniques, including ones that haven’t been clinically proven. Matt Farwell, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, shares his story about struggles with PTSD and his choice to receive the stellate ganglion block. The injection to the stellate ganglion nerve cluster in the spinal column is controversial in the medical community, but anecdotal reports from veterans like Farwell say the shot is life changing. Other veterans are using marijuana as a treatment for PTSD, despite a lack of research into its effectiveness. –MC
Bottom line: I’ve known Matt Farwell for a big part of the years that he has struggled with his PTSD and the difference in him is noticeable and remarkable. He joins a growing group of veterans and others finding that the ‘God Shot’ is the solution to their struggles. Couple that with the fight to allow cannabis as a treatment and there is a chorus of support for more alternative treatments beyond therapy and opiates for PTSD. It’s time for real funding and support for alternative treatments to be studied and approved, not just for veterans but the hundreds of thousands of others who suffer from PTSD. –FPW [Ed. Note: Of course, it’s also important for DoD, VA, and others in the medical community to refine and implement better methods for delivering traditional treatments, as well. –LJ]

House Votes to Allow Arlington Interments for Female WWII Pilots
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Last Tuesday, the House passed legislation that would reverse an Army decision and thus allow women who served as pilots ferrying airplanes during WWII to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Nearly 1,100 Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs, served from 1942 to 1944 and conducted training and support missions. It’s been a long fight for advocates on this issue, and the House vote is only the first step. –MC
Bottom line: This story goes to show what some dogged advocacy and a few high-profile media pieces can do for a campaign. The families of WASPs have put their hearts and souls into fulfilling their loved ones’ wishes to be laid to final rest at Arlington, and they’ve even got some Army leadership on their side now—as long as Congress passes appropriate legislation. That legislation will be narrow enough to allow WASPs to be interred but not the hundreds of thousands of Merchant Marines who served in WWII, a group the Army also excluded from eligibility to preserve space in the cemetery and columbarium. It is wonderful that this important group of women will be recognized for their service, and we should hope that Congress has a plan to similar ensure some recognition for the Merchant Marines who risked their lives in WWII as well. –LJ

Chuck Hagel Laments the Dearth of Veterans in Key National Security Roles
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke last week at the HillVets 100 event and expressed concern about the lack of veterans in positions that shape national security decisions. Hagel noted that there is a growing gap between veterans and civilians and that not one presidential candidate or anyone on the White House national security council is a veteran. –MC
Bottom line: In some ways, what Hagel is worried about is similar to what I expressed above. If more veterans worked on congressional staff or on the National Security Council, there might be more attention paid to when and why the U.S. deploys its military and how we will care for the families and veterans of our wars. Hagel noted in his speech that civilians aren’t fundamentally less intelligent on national security matters than veterans, but that veterans simply add experience civilians don’t have. That’s why we’re proud to support organizations like HillVets, which is working to elevate more veterans into policymaking jobs on Capitol Hill and in Washington. The more diverse experiences that can be brought to bear when weighing policy options will mean better outcomes for everyone. –LJ

The Unemployment Rate for Veterans is the Lowest in Seven Years
Jeffrey Sparshott (@jeffsparshott), The Wall Street Journal
The latest Labor Department figures show that unemployment for all veterans fell to 4.6 percent in 2015, marking the lowest unemployment rate for veterans since 2008. The rates do reflect a larger change in total U.S. unemployment as it heals from the latest recession, but hiring efforts across the corporate and nonprofit sectors are making a significant difference. –MC
Bottom line: We have to accept that the worst of the disastrous unemployment rates for veterans is behind us. The Herculean efforts by non-profits, corporations, and the government have brought the employment numbers in line with the rest of the population. Of course, there is always a caveat. Thousands of service members will still be taking their uniforms off each year and almost half will leave their first job within a year after leaving. Veterans using the GI Bill will face a ‘second transition’ upon graduating and need assistance finding work. So, we’ve beaten back the crisis. High fives. Now it’s back to work because the job of finding veterans long-term careers is not done. –FPW

Client News:

Warrior-Scholar Project Awarded $200,000 by the National Endowment for the Humanities
On Thursday, the National Endowment for the Humanities announced the recipients of its Standing Together Initiative’s “Dialogues on the Experience of War” grant program, a $1.5 million effort to create discussion programs for veterans. The Warrior-Scholar Project received two $100,000 grants to integrate discussions into its academic boot camps for enlisted veterans at top universities across the nation. If you’re interested in applying for a WSP boot camp, visit –MC

Hiring Our Heroes: Five Years of Connecting Military Families with Jobs
Jack Norton, Hiring Our Heroes
Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes effort celebrated its five-year anniversary. Since March of 2011, Hiring Our heroes has hosted about 1,000 hiring events leading to the hiring of more than 28,000 veterans and military spouses. Congratulations to all of you at Hiring Our Heroes on your continued impact on the veterans community. –MC

Why Getting More Veterans on the Hill is a Bipartisan Issue
James Clark (@JamesWClark), Task & Purpose
HillVets, a bipartisan organization working to increase the number of veterans in politics, hosted an event to honor 100 influencers in the veteran community, including our CEO Fred Wellman. Speakers at the event touched on a larger theme – the need for more veterans in our nation’s politics across the board. –MC

Today’s Scholars: a Aloser Look at Majors that Student Veterans Are Pursuing
Chris Cate, Vice President of Research, Student Veterans of America
A new research brief from Student Veterans of America explores which fields of study student veterans are pursuing. The data found that veterans are pursuing a wide variety of degrees, but business and STEM fields are the most common. This important data also demonstrate a potential gap between military and civilian life — the STEM training and specialization service members receive in the military may not carry efficiently to the civilian workforce. Each month, SVA will publish a spotlight brief on student veterans, be sure to keep an eye out for the next one, too! –MC

Team RWB Helps Veterans Forge Connections with Their Communities
Drew Brooks (@DrewBrooks), Fayetteville Observer
Learn more about Team Red, White, and Blue from its founder Mark Erwin in this look at how the organization has grown and why it has used data to measure the deeply personal impact RWB has had on so many in the community. An important aspect of RWB that Erwin touches on in the article is how civilians have been such a big part of the success RWB has had in growth but also in impact. –LJ

ScoutComms CEO Named Virginia’s Small Business Veteran of 2015
Last week, our CEO and founder Fred Wellman was recognized as the 2015 Virginia Small Business Veteran of the Year by the Virginia Small Business Development Center Network. The award recognizes a veteran who gives back to the community and economy through business ownership. Fred’s name will be inscribed on a plaque which will be placed at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond. We’re thrilled that Fred received this award on behalf of ScoutComms. Congrats, Fred! –MC

Quick Hits:

Best for Vets: Employers 2016 – Our 7th Annual Report
George Altman, Military Times
Military Times released its 2016 list of Best for Vets employers last week based on a rigorous 90-question survey about company policies regarding veteran, and organizational culture. The top five ranked included Verizon, Union Pacific Railroad, USAA, PwC, and BAE Systems. –MC

Moves in the sector:

DoD Family Policy Chief Stepping Down
Amy Bushatz,
Rosemary Williams, the current head of the Defense Department’s military community and family policy office will be moving into a new position as the assistant secretary of public affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs beginning on April 4. Williams said that she will continue to help service members and their families through her new position. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences

Defense Strategies Institute: DoD Unmanned Systems Summit (Tue – Wed; March 29 – 30, 2016); The Mary M. Gates Learning Center, Alexandria, VA

Congressional Hearings

Congress is in recess.

Think Tanks & Other Events

Center for Strategic and International Studies: Meeting Today’s Global Security Challenges
Who: General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Where: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036

For a full list of upcoming events, visit our website.

Fred WellmanFred Wellman, President ScoutComms, brings us his weekly review of veteran news via The Scout Report. Fred served over twenty years as an Army officer in both aviation and public affairs. Follow Fred on Twitter @ScoutComms.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 28, 2016 6:08 pm

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